Part of the upscale Hradcany neighbourhood, the 12th century Premonstratensian Strahov Monastery is home to one of the world’s most impressive libraries. Catch a glimpse at its striking baroque halls and collection of curios.
The late 18th century Philosophy Hall spans two storeys, with the ceiling bedecked in an extensive fresco, “Mankind’s Quest for True Wisdom”. Its companion Theology Hall is rich with ornate stuccowork and dates to the 17th century. The Cabinet of Curiosities contains a hodgepodge of preserved animal bits and pieces, as well as historical items of interest like Habsburg Empress Marie Louise’s miniature coffee service and the jewelled medieval codex, the Strahov Evangeliary. Outside the library, the monastery also houses an art gallery, within a 17th century church and a Baroque decorated 12th century church, featuring an organ rumoured to have been played by Mozart.
Strahov Monastery is located near Prague Castle, in Hradcany. The castle complex and Petrin Tower are both within walking distance, and a longer 30-minute walk is enough to reach Charles Bridge and the city centre of Prague itself. There is a close tram stop for those less inclined to walk across the Czech capital.
Founded in 1143, Strahov Monastery was the brainchild of Jindrich Zdik, Bishop of Olomouc. In some respects, the monastery has taken a beaten over the centuries, from the 15th century Hussite book burning to much more recent monks’ exile under communist rule. Fortunately, the buildings, including the magnificent Baroque library, have suffered little damage.